Suarez Group - Brain evolution and development

The human brain is the most complex known biological structure. It consists of intricate networks of neuronal connections that underlie our unique experience, and subtle alterations to its structure may lead to life-long debilitating conditions.

Precise formation of brain circuits is tightly regulated by both intrinsic and extrinsic cues, and follow developmental principles that have been shaped during millions of years of animal evolution. Our group investigates what are these principles, how they operate, how they have diversified, and how changes within them can lead to disease –at the organism level– or to evolutionary change –at the lineage level.

We combine multiple approaches of systems biology to address these questions, including transcriptomics, molecular and cellular biology, developmental neuroanatomy, advanced imaging (e.g., live multi-photon, MRI), and functional and behavioural assays. By combining state-of-the-art methods and theories in a range of species, such as placentals (e.g., mice) and marsupials (e.g., dunnarts), as well as other vertebrates, we can distinguish between ancestral and derived mechanisms and gain new insights about their impact in human mental health.

Read more about our research capabilities (PDF, 2.8 MB)

Timing in brain evolution and development

This project studies how differences in the timing of gene expression, cell specification and axonal targeting can instruct structural differences in the mammalian neocortex

Early wiring of cortical circuits

How do newborn neurons know where to go and connect to? This project examines axonal guidance in the cortex of mice and marsupials to elucidate the clues that guide circuit formation

Roles of early neural activity in circuit formation

How does the electrical milieu affect formation of brain circuits? Here we examine the roles of early neural activity in the molecular and cellular differentiation of brain circuits in vivo.

Comparative neuroanatomy

Closely related species have more similar brains than distant ones. By comparing the structure of neural circuits we can gain new insights about the organisation of the brain across species, including our own.


  • Lizzy Haines

    Lizzy Haines

    PhD student
    School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Evan Bailey

    Evan Bailey

    PhD student
    School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Ching Moey

    Mrs Ching Moey

    Senior Research Assistant and PhD student
    School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Adam Luff

    Honours student
    School of Biomedical Sciences

Would you like to join our group? We have several ongoing projects at Hons, MSc, PhD and Postdoctoral levels. Ideal candidates will have undergraduate degrees in science (e.g., biological, biomedical, computational) or related areas, along with relevant experience and/or a deep interest in the field.

Please send a < 1-page letter explaining why you would like to join our group to along with associated details (e.g., relevant experience, course transcripts, etc.).

Check UQ Graduate School Scholarships for postgraduate funding options and application deadlines. Additional or external funding sources (particularly at postdoctoral and early career academic levels) from Australia or overseas are welcome.

For a full list of publications, see ORCID (

Paolino et al., (2023) Non-uniform temporal scaling of developmental processes in the mammalian cortex. Nature Communications 14 (5950).

Haines et al., (2023) Clade-specific forebrain cytoarchitectures of the extinct Tasmanian tiger. PNAS 12 (32) e2306516120.

Suárez et al., (2023) Cortical activity emerges in region-specific patterns during early brain development. PNAS 120 (22) e2208654120.

Kozulin et al., (2022) Divergent evolution of neocortical maturation timing revealed by marsupial and eutherian transcriptomes. Development 149(3):dev200212

Vigouroux et al., (2021) Bilateral visual projections exist in non-teleost bony fish and predate the emergence of tetrapods. Science 372:150-156.

Paolino et al., (2020) Differential timing of a conserved transcriptional network underlies divergent cortical projection routes across mammalian evolution. PNAS, 117(19):10554-10564.

Suárez et al., (2018) A pan-mammalian map of interhemispheric brain connections predates the evolution of the corpus callosum. PNAS, 115(38)9622-9627.

Gobius et al., (2016) Astroglial-mediated remodeling of the interhemispheric midline is required for the formation of the corpus callosum. Cell Reports 17(3):735-747.

Suárez et al., (2014). Balanced interhemispheric cortical activity is required for correct targeting of the corpus callosum. Neuron 82(6):1289-1298.